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11 Oct, 2023 03:12

EU threatens Musk with ‘penalties’

The billionaire must comply with the bloc’s “disinformation” regulations or face punishment, a senior official has said
EU threatens Musk with ‘penalties’

A top EU official has demanded a crackdown on “disinformation” on X (formerly Twitter), warning that the bloc would take action against site owner Elon Musk if he allowed “terrorist content” to circulate on his platform.

In an “urgent letter” addressed to Musk on Tuesday, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton recalled the “very precise obligations” set out under the bloc’s internet regulation laws. He urged for stricter enforcement on X, claiming there had been a deluge of false information related to ongoing fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants.

“Following the terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel, we have indications that your platform is being used to disseminate illegal content and disinformation in the EU,” he said, adding that when X receives “notices of illegal content,” it must “be timely, diligent and objective in taking action and removing the relevant content.”

While Breton offered no examples of “violent and terrorist content” making the rounds on the platform, he went on to state that “public media and civil society organizations” had reported numerous cases of “fake and manipulated images,” including “repurposed” photos from unrelated conflicts and “footage that actually originated from video games.”

The official said he expected a “prompt, accurate and complete response” from Musk’s team within 24 hours, and warned that “penalties can be imposed” if the EU authorities find that X is not complying with the bloc’s primary internet regulation, the Digital Services Act (DSA).

Musk later reacted to the letter in a social media post, asking Breton to “list the violations you allude to on X, so that the public can see them.” He added that “Our policy is that everything is open source and transparent, an approach that I know the EU supports.”

Breton declined to cite any particular cases of misinformation, instead stating that Musk is “well aware of your users’ – and authorities’ – reports on fake content and glorification of violence.”

Under the DSA, websites and search engines can be fined up to 6% of their global turnover if they are found in violation of the rules. However, while the law will not be fully enforced until early 2024, sites designated as “very large online platforms” – or those with more than 45 million monthly users, such as X – were expected to meet the requirements starting in August.

The violent flare-up in Israel erupted over the weekend, after Hamas – the Palestinian group that governs Gaza – sent waves of commandos and rockets into Israeli towns. The Israel Defense Forces retaliated with heavy airstrikes on Gaza, which continued into Tuesday night. Nearly 2,000 people have been killed on all sides of the conflict since Saturday, according to local officials, with thousands more injured.